Noah Bragg

Problems Worth Solving

February 01, 2020 | 4 Minute Read

I have been struggling a lot recently with finding the next project that I'm going to work on. I think that I’ve had the right mindset in starting with a problem this time instead of an idea. So I started with a problem around companies finding product/market fit through customer feedback. How do they make decisions for their road maps? How do they decide what to build?

The Struggle

After talking to many different entrepreneurs and product managers, in big and small companies, I ended up more confused then when I began. Everyone was at a different stage in their business and seemed to solve these problems in different ways. How do I put this all together?

I came to the hazy conclusion that companies aren’t really looking at customer feedback to direct their business unless they are at a very early stage. And at that point, they are so small that they don’t need tools to help them anyway!

Well that was discouraging. I always thought that feedback was supposed to be really important to a business! Most companies early on didn’t seem to be willing to pay for a product that helped with this.

How does one find a problem worth solving? This is the question that I am really interested in figuring out for myself. And that is part of the problem - I think the answer will be different for everyone.

There are so many problems that I honestly don’t care about. They don’t have any meaning to me. And it’s hard to find ones that I actually do care about. Since I tend to be a laid back, easy going guy, I don’t really recognize or even notice many problems throughout my day!

Not only do you have to find a problem you care about, but it has to be an opportunity that could actually lead to a successful business. The Eisenhower Matrix is a good way to think about this.

You primarily want to find a problem that is important as well as urgent (the top left quadrant of the table).

There are so many other filters that you have to look at a problem through as well.

Courtland Allen compiled a great list that you can see in this Google Doc.

He lists many filters and questions to ask yourself to see if your business idea around a particular problem is even worth solving.

The Small Window

With all this being said, it feels like the path to find the right business problem to solve is almost impossible! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. But then, I realized that I have been doing something that might be the cause for such a small window.

Every time that I think of a problem to solve, I search around to see who is already solving it. Most of the time I find multiple businesses doing just that. I typically think “Well, I guess I can’t solve that problem because someone else already owns the whole market!” I then get discouraged and move on.

This may be right in some cases. There are some giants that I think it is very dangerous to try to compete against. But in other cases, this is probably not the right approach.

Courtland Allen recently replied in an Indie Hackers post,

"Many people struggle to identify problems because they mistakenly narrow their focus to only problems that don't have solutions. Those are really hard to find. Almost impossible."

I have been afraid to enter markets because I don’t think I can compete or I don’t think there needs to be another solution. But that is not the right reason to say no to a problem.

The Answer?

Well, things are looking up. I just need to find a problem in a market where it is already being solved, differentiate it in a little way, and voila!

That might be the answer but it still isn’t quite easy for me. There are still quite a few filters to go through and a lot of things to think about.

One answer that I think is closer to what I needed to hear came from @ManuKumar in a tweet.

There is so much that I don’t know about specific problems and there isn’t really a great way for me to learn about them other than just trying to solve them. Just to jump in and begin building something that might be the right solution. While it might not be right on the first try, hopefully I will get some feedback that will point me in a better direction.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’m going to throw away all research or talking to people about their problems. But I think eventually I just have to start somewhere.

Support

I hope this was helpful in some way. If you liked it, sharing the thread on Twitter is really appreciated!

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